Making legal information more comprehensible and easier to use is a central theme in legal design. It is also a topic that has recently gained increasing research interest, sparking new ideas on how to enhance the usability of contracts and other legal documents in practice.
Research has shown that understanding what a document says, is all about human metacognition. If users are enabled to connect the content of a legal document with ideas that are meaningful to them, it can help avoid “cognitive accidents” and work as a proactive method to promote legal wellbeing of the users and other parties. When users can understand what is expected of them, legal conflicts and misbehavior due to misunderstandings are less likely to occur.
Rob and Helena share insights from their various projects and collaborations, like the contract simplification project with an energy industry facility and Canadian aboriginals. We also hear what proactive law is, and practical tips about how to improve the usability of legal documents. If you want to know what makes a good (legal) document, tune in!
Helena Haapio is a lawyer on a mission to change the way contracts and law are perceived, presented, and taught. She is a lawyer and contract strategist by day and a researcher, author, and editor by night. She has had the good fortune of working with information designers and plain language experts who have taught her a lot. She is a co-founder and co-creator of the WorldCC Contract Design Pattern Library and currently co-editing two books for Edward Elgar, one on Contract Design and the other on Legal Design.
Helena is an Associate Professor of Business Law at the University of Vaasa, Finland, and a Contract Strategist at Lexpert Ltd. In addition to her doctorate and LLM, she is proud to hold a Master of Quality degree. Like engineers, Helena wants everything she does to be functional, useful, and usable.
Rob Waller’s recent work is in the growing field of legal information design, working to improve consumer and business contracts through plain language, usable design and visualization. His other current focus is the Information Design Summer School, which introduces non-specialists to theories and techniques that help to simplify complex information.
Semi-retired from a career in research, teaching and consultancy, Rob has more time now for renovating a 200-year-old stone barn, gardening and playing sax – where no one can hear him. His 1987 PhD explored the relationship between language and design, and he continues to look for better ways to explain this and unify them in practice. Rob the current President of the International Institute for Information Design.
Link to the article mentioned in the episode: Robert Waller, Jenny Waller, Helena Haapio, Gary Crag & Sandi Morrisseau, Cooperation through Clarity: Designing Simplified Contracts. Journal of Strategic Contracting and Negotiation, Vol. 2, Issue 1–2 (Special Issue: Contracting for Innovation and Innovating Contracts), 2016, pp. 48–68. Manuscript available at ResearchGate. ( Please note that this is a manuscript of an article accepted for publication in the Journal of Strategic Contracting and Negotiation. To cite this article, please refer to the published version.)